Oh, how I have recently read some phenomenal books!
I kicked off this Journey with Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. My dear friend purchased it for me over a year ago, and why it took me so long to consume, I will never know! Brown inspired me to dive deeper into the meaning of life, so I snagged The Trauma of Everyday Life, by Mark Epstein, MD. He discusses Buddhism and how trauma can be used as a positive aspect in our lives. Not shockingly, Brown and Epstein (a grief researcher, and a Buddhist psychiatrist, respectively) dip into some similar pockets of knowledge.
These readings inspired me to finally commit to reading Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, which I picked up when I was in Germany several years ago. For many years, I was either intimidated or didn’t feel worthy enough to read this book. Frankl recounts his survival in Nazi death camps, which seamlessly ties in existentialism and how trauma’s close friend is joy and life.
I completed Frankl’s work while in Austin, after experiencing many magical days with my dear friend Vanessa. Each day was better than the day before, and that is when I started reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. In fact, I read the first chapter out loud to Vanessa while sitting in a hammock next to a natural spring– in retrospect that magical in itself.
There is a section in Big Magic when Gilbert expresses that she intentionally does not meet her idols, as previous experience has lead to disappointments– That is how I feel about writing this post. Not in the “will she read it read it” type of way, but rather in the “once I write it, my journey with this book is over,” type of way. I nursed this book for almost a month and having finished it, I feel like I met Gilbert in such a personal way and left without saying goodbye resulting in a huge wave of disappointment.
Obviously, the lessons learned from this book will continue to produce outcomes– It is a “self-help-ish” book on creative living for goodness sake. Typically I read a book then write about it to help explore and solidify my experience. My process may “over,” but this book inspired the hell out of me–It’s just beginning!
If you know me well, you know that I believe inspiration is the best gift you can give to someone. Which is why I consider this book part self-help, part inspiration, which equals… Big Magic.
I recently tried to tell my friend about creative living, to which she responded with “What’s that?” Even after reading the book, I am still inclined to respond “What does it mean to you?” My response could reflect the social work/therapist in me, or it could be completely appropriate, and I think it’s a little of both. Either way, I avoided the question because a) my response would be too big and b) it’s different for everyone.
Gilbert defines creative as, “The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” Essentially it is anything that is “sheltered inside you.” Her theory is that the “universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels– that’s creative living.” Thus, the act of finding said jewels– That’s Big Magic.
And yes, that is Harry Potter magic, not magic in a metaphorical sense. In fact, Gilbert discusses how there is a parallel universe, living right aside of ours. This realm solely supports creative thoughts and inspiration, which swarm around humans. Their only goal is to be seen and heard and, well… created.
Some creativity can stick with you for days or years before it moves on to find someone else, or it could be mere seconds. Sometimes you have to grab it by the tail to yank it back to your reality. Sometimes practicing your craft (writing, painting, acting) will open up doors and create things you never knew existed. Once you grab something and create it, whatever it may be (Hell even this blog post), magic happens.
That’s big magic in a nutshell. It’s inclusive. It does not discriminate. It doesn’t always wait. Thus, the only thing really inhibiting creativity is you, me… It’s us. Jack Gilbert (Not related to Elizabeth), describes it best by stating, “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
Throughout Big Magic Gilbert discusses the challenges of creative living, as there are many. Anytime one is faced with fear, the normal human response is to recoil, or let fear control– Unless you’re one of those people who cope well in all situations (freaking unicorn). Though, like Epstein and Brown, Gilbert recognizes that fear and creativity (or joy) aren’t enemies– they are partners. In fact, Gilbert states that “creativity triggers fear.” She no longer tries to separate the two– she simply creates room for both.
This idea, of course, couldn’t be any clearer to me after reading this book. In fact, if I didn’t get the memo that bad emotions or feelings are not only present but NECESSARY, to experience more positive emotions (e.g., joy, happiness, laughter), throughout my string of reads then I am a lost cause… Thankfully, I got it.
To translate a mystical artist way of saying “capture the big magic,” one could reframe with: “Lean into fear.” Which is exactly what this book inspired me to do.
As mentioned previously, I never wanted this book to end. I wanted to hear MORE stories about Gilbert’s failed books and horror stories about her “farmer” like dedication to her craft–which is beyond inspiring.
Gilbert chooses to say “yes,” and well… Work.
Throughout the book, she finds a way to describe her experiences while encouraging the masses by simply give ourselves permission… To anything. That is: failure, success, laziness, openness, pain, happiness. Main thing: Just be curious. Just a tiny bit will do. Hell, Gilbert was once curious about gardening, which resulted in a novel, The Signature of All Things. Of course, writing that novel took SO much work and dedication, but it started with just being curious and open, which eventually lead to big magic.
Being creative, or living creativity, is vulnerable and anytime one feels vulnerability they may feel fear. However, as we know, to feel joy one must feel fear. In order to live your most creative life, you will be consistently challenged. You may not always feel good or safe, but you will be living in a way that creates space for feeling good and safe– and what’s better creating goodness, or simply hoping for it?
I am choosing to create it. Will you join me? Read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Like, just do it.